The following review is based on the press release from the poster presentation at the recent ACOG conference as well as the online radio show (Can Diet Affect IVF Success?) with that study's first author on CreatingAFamily.org, aired on November 28, 2012.
Russell, J.B, et al. (May, 2013). Daily Protein Content Correlates with Increased Fertility and Pregnancy Outcome. Presented at the Annual Clinical Meeting of the American Congress of Obstitritians and Gynecologists, Monday Poster #96
Traditionally, research has shown that individuals with higher BMI (body mass index) have lower fertility success rates, especially once BMI >30. However, this author noticed several patients that were within the healthy weight range and still had little success, so began asking the women about their diet. He found that they were consuming a huge amount of carbohydrates and minimal protein (<10% of calories coming from protein).
The study presented compared the embryo development quality and pregnancy rates among women with daily protein intake >25% of total calories confused with those consume less the 25% protein, based on 3 day food logs. They found improved embryo development (54% reaching blatocyst formation by day 5 compared with 38%) and improved pregnancy rates (67% vs 32%) for the high protein group vs the low protein group.
In the radio show, the author elaborate on these findings. He reported that protein amounts did not seem to make a difference until you were consuming at least 25% and then the impact peaked at 30% (so that consuming 90% protein is not any more helpful). He also found that there was an added benefit to reducing carbohydrate calories to 40% or less of your daily caloric intake.
The author commented that he has noticed that this effect we helpful in increasing fertility overall (vs just improving IVF rates) and that when they began instructing patients to follow these dietary guidelines, they noticed that many couples became pregnant in the month waiting for their IVF cycle.
When asking about how long you would have to follow these eating guidelines before it having an effect, he reported that 3 months is usually what he recommends. He reports that it takes an egg approximately 2.5 months to go from dormant to mature and that he has noticed some benefit with following the diet for one month, more benefit after two months, and optimal benefit after three months.
It's a little difficult for me to review the soundness of this research, as many of the details are not available since it is not yet fully published. However, given that it's been highly endorsed by ACOG increased my confidences in the research methodology and conclusions. I did specifically ask my RE at our recent IVF consultation appointment about dietary recommendations and he told me that there wasn't anything specifically supported in the research. So maybe this isn't as well known or as solid of a study as I would have guessed.
Either way, my RE said that it wouldn't hurt. I put this into the category of things that might be helpful and likely won't be hurtful. Plus, it is something that is very cheap/free (I have to eat no matter what). On the radio show, the author describes his theory about how protein is related to egg (and sperm) development, and it makes logical sense to me. So personally, I am making a commitment to focus on my protein and carbohydrate intake. Now that is research in action!